For a second straight day, Southern Miss. sends a UTEP basketball team back to Miner Village, this time it was the Southern Miss. women's basketball team who used a huge second half swing to down the Miners 84-70 early Friday afternoon
The first half was intense, and entire game for that matter, was a back and forth fan pleasing 40 minutes of basketball.
UTEP started the morning off with three straight triples, two by Kayla Thornton whose quick six points cemented her place a top the UTEP All-Time scoring list.
Neither team could build more than a two point lead in the first seven minutes, though UTEP cashed in on a Southern Miss. turnover, leading to a four point swing for the Miners after Kristine Vitola gave UTEP a bucket, lifting the lead to 20-16 UTEP at the 12:08 mark.
The Miners would ride that four point swing, turning into a 9-2 run when Stacie Telles rained home a triple putting UTEP up 27-18 with a little under seven minutes left until the half.
Despite raining home four of nine trifecta attempts, UTEP only shot 37 percent from the field in the first half, but did an exceptional job taking care of the ball, and did not allow any second chance points in the first half.
Still Southern Miss scored 24 points in the paint in the first frame, many on easy, un-contested layups that closed the gap, and tightened things up with UTEP holding on to a 35-33 at the break.
The Miners came out of the gates firing in the second half, Kelli Willingham sank a triple that put UTEP ahead 44-37 just three and a half minutes into the frame.
UTEP maintained their lead for the following five minutes, then Southern Miss. went on a run that buried the Miners for good.
Southern Miss. continued to get the rim with ease despite being down, Jamierra Faulker tied things up at 51 when she completed a three point play. Southern Miss. picked the Miners apart all day with great ball movement, dishing out 15 assists on 28 made field goals.
Tamara Jones hit a jumper at the 7:32 mark giving Southern Miss. their first lead since the 14:13 mark of the first half, nipping the Miners 58-57.
After being down 51-46, second seeded Southern Miss. would out score the Miners 38-19 in the final thirteen minutes of the contest, sinking free throws, and rebounding the all of a sudden cold Miners attempts at another comeback second half win.
The Miners did cut the lead to six after a pair of Kayla Thornton free throws with 2:35 left, although would not come closer than eight in the final two minutes, Southern Miss. did what you have to do in March, hit free throws to ice the game.
Faulker finished with a game high 26 points on 7/9 shooting from the charity stripe, Jerontay Clemons added 17 points for the Golden Eagles, who got to the free throw line 30 times, and came away with 24 points from the line.
Southern Miss. finished with 44 points in the paint, while their active zone defense limited UTEP to only 26 points in the paint.
Kayla Thornton lead four Miners in double figures with 21 points, Kristine Vitola put in 11 points, while El Pasoan Stacie Telles was solid with 13 points, going a perfect three for three from behind the three point line.
Chrishauna Parker hustled her way to 12 points and 8 boards, for the Miners who finished the game shooting 37 percent.
The loss drops the Miners to a 24-7 record, also dashing any hopes of NCAA Tournament bid.
UTEP is sure get a call from the WNIT which an announcement should be made Monday.
Tough to swallow for a group of seniors who were the best to ever don the orange, and blue, things are not over, the postseason run is just getting started for the UTEP women's basketball team.